From the Superintendent’s Desk

by Jeffrey Collier, Superintendent of Schools

January 27, 2017

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

Often times it seems as if we are all working at a frantic pace to keep up with the demands of raising and educating our children; therefore it is sometimes easy to lose perspective in everyday details and forget to keep our focus on “the big picture.” We must remember why we choose to be here, advocating for students in this beautiful environment. Everyone, including staff, parents, extended family, local and non-local community members and business leaders from across the area, are deeply vested in providing the best possible educational opportunities for the students of Au Gres- Sims so that they will grow up to be responsible, intelligent adults who not only have the ability and opportunity to lead successful lives, but ultimately make positive contributions to society. With “the big picture” in mind, allow me this opportunity to share some of the things we have collectively accomplished in a very short time that reflect the incredible educational product at Au Gres-Sims.

Due to careful fiscal responsibility and a healthy fund balance, our physical plant needs are being addressed one project at a time. The high school gymnasium floor has been gorgeously refinished and roofs in need of repair have been replaced. By adding three leased buses, our bus fleet is the newest it has ever been, providing safety in transporting our precious cargo to school and home every day.

Our pupil enrollment has steadily increased, providing stability for the district, and our dynamic staff continues to be revitalized as we attract exciting new talent, full of energy and ideas, from around the state. As a district of leaders, our staff’s work ethic, enthusiasm and open-mindedness is contagious, and sets examples for our children to explore and engage in wonderful educational opportunities!

The renovation of our former wood shop and high school library area into a Cyber Cafe’ and Innovation Lab is nearly complete. This project will provide fantastic learning spaces for students to stretch their imaginations and discover curriculum in a wide-open arena that is not hindered by traditional classroom restrictions, while providing freedom for flexible, visionary teaching methods. With these modernized 21st Century learning spaces, teachers will be able to creatively share innovative ideas and projects that are limitless in scope and design.

Through the amazing partnership and generosity of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, who awarded $92,491.46 to the district in 2016 fall grants alone, contemporary instructional materials and equipment continue to arrive, allowing us to prepare cutting-edge classrooms for students. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has also been extremely supportive of our progressive new ideas and vision of providing advanced technological and educational opportunities for our students.

Not only do we model regional leadership in instructional technology with our established Project PowerUP! 1:1 Chromebooks in grades 6-12, but the district also received 195 HP 8200 desktop computers through a government partnership called Computers for Learning. This program allowed us to fully upgrade our entire campus with the latest equipment for the simple cost of shipping, and ensure state-of-the-art learning resources for all of our students and staff.

I am also pleased to announce that Au Gres-Sims has teamed up with area engineers and sponsors, including Bopp-Busch Manufacturing Company, to establish our initial FIRST Robotics Competition Team in the high school. This after-school program will build upon our already initiated STEM programming and provide secondary students experience and advanced engagement in the field of robotics.

Further, through a partnership fostered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the district plans to receive a large working greenhouse in the spring which will allow students to engage in environmental stewardship and conservation activities with vast, state-wide impact. This greenhouse project will also sync with our existing unique river investigations, water quality studies, invasive species awareness, and Charity Island studies.

Perhaps never before has there been such vibrancy on campus, or opportunities to engage in, communicate with, and share the excitement of Au Gres-Sims throughout our community. The public is welcomed and encouraged to review all of our featured news articles and information housed on our user-friendly website at www.ags-schools.org, follow shared daily celebrations and information on Twitter @AGSschools or via #AGSdailyshare, or even listen to the “J&J in Au Gres” podcasts created between myself and City Manager John Stanley, which can be found at http://www.ags-schools.org/community/podcast or on iTunes or Android.

Regardless of how we choose to invest in or support Au Gres-Sims individually, there is no doubt that this dynamic “Destination District” represents an amazing, stable, and progressive educational institution for which we, as an entire community, have much to be proud.

Perspective is everything!

Yours in Education,

Jeffrey Collier

Superintendent of Schools

May 29, 2015

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

I am extremely pleased to announce that, on behalf of our educational community, I accepted the United States Department of Education’s Future Ready District Pledge. Further, Au Gres-Sims received a full travel grant to send a four member team of educational leaders; Jeffrey Collier (Superintendent), Chad Zeien (Principal), Matt DeBeau (Teacher), and Chad Anthony (1:1 Director), to a Future Ready National Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 21-23, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Technology states, “The Pledge recognizes the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity, and new devices to transform teaching and learning. Superintendents from across the country have signed the pledge, demonstrating their commitment to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to set a vision for digital learning, to empower educators through personalized professional learning, and to mentor other district leaders in their own transition to digital learning.”

Accepting the pledge to become a Future Ready School District was a logical step in Au Gres- Sims’ continued alignment of instructional practices in accordance with progressive 21st century ideologies and learning techniques. Coupled with the steady, designed implementation of robust state of the art instructional technology resources and infrastructure campus-wide, becoming a Future Ready District will aid and support our Project PowerUP! 1:1 (one instructional device per student) initiative and instructional measures as we advance our strategic designs to remain educationally innovative.

Seth Andrew, Senior Advisor to the Executive Office of the President, wrote, “Superintendent Collier, as a signer of the Future Ready Pledge, Au Gres-Sims School District is already helping lead the way on active learning. When the President gathered district leaders together at the White House in November for ConnectED to the Future, he called on us to continue our momentum to build the kind of 21st century schools that all our students deserve.”

Starting immediately in the 2015-16 school year, the Project PowerUP! 1:1 program at Au Gres- Sims will provide each enrolled student in grades 6-12 their own personal Chromebook device as an instructional tool. To date, only an estimated 13% of school districts nationwide have fully functioning 1:1 technology device programs. This visionary 1:1 plan concept at Au Gres-Sims will provide students with contemporary resources mirroring instructional devices and styles being applied in career and college readiness environments. Consistent with our desire to provide only the best educational settings for students, our 1:1 Chromebook plan, combined with our pledge to model as a Future Ready District demonstrates our commitment to remain a student “Destination District” and Academic Regional leader in Northeast Michigan!

For more information regarding the Future Ready District Pledge, visit:http://tech.ed.gov/futureready/

February 3, 2015

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

I have terrific news to share. Today, our Au Gres-Sims School District was named an Academic State Champion by Bridge Magazine. Only 73 out of 507 school districts received this recognition, and Au Gres-Sims was ranked 34th overall in the entire State of Michigan! With special recognition, based on the metrics used by the Bridge comparative study, Au Gres-Sims Elementary School ranked 18th in the state out of 653 elementary schools, and Au Gres-Sims High School ranked 33rd in the state out of 552 high schools.

To determine the winners, Bridge Magazine partnered with Public Sector Consultants, Inc., the state’s leading public policy research firm, to develop a value-added ranking system which measures district’s and school’s test scores adjusted for student family income, which is often a predictor of academic achievement. Essentially, Bridge’s Academic State Champions are being recognized for overachievement, rather than achievement.

This recognition reaffirms our dedication, as a regional academic leader and Destination District, to extraordinary education, and the exceptional performance of our students, teachers, and building administrators. I am immensely proud of our faculty, staff, and – most of all – our students! We are also very grateful to our parents, guardians, volunteers, and leaders in the community who support our students and schools.

I encourage you to explore the Academic State Champs coverage and statewide rankings database at www.bridgemi.com and to share this wonderful news with friends, family, and others throughout our extended Au Gres-Sims educational community.

Bridge also offers opportunities for us to display this award every day. Please go to http://bridgemi.com/2015/01/academic-state-champs-bumper-sticker/ to order a free Academic State Champs bumper sticker.

Yours in Education,

Jeffrey Collier

Superintendent of Schools

January 5, 2015

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

I am incredibly pleased to share that our district continues to positively reverse current educational trends while establishing modeled fiscal leadership. The financial firm Gardner, Provenzano, Thomas & Luplow, P.C., recently reported during the school board’s 2013-14 annual financial audit review that, in a time when many Michigan districts have experienced struggles to steady finances, Au Gres-Sims was able to reinvest a net total of $81,530 back into the district’s fund balance, effectively raising the account above 13% of total operational costs. This positive financial prowess has been the result of steadfast, insightful, and diligent leadership from the school board, and progressive collaboration efforts from all district team members. This accomplishment is accentuated even further when realizing the major infrastructure reinvestment that took place this summer on our campus in the form of new roofs on the high school gymnasium and elementary library, and an extensive overhaul of the outdoor tiling and drainage system on the elementary playground and softball field.

The district has no doubt experienced the natural, positive by-product of being a regional academic leader with increased and consistent student enrollment which has had a stabilizing impact on our local revenue. However, both the Au Gres-Sims professional teacher and support staff associations need to be strongly commended for their joint partnerships and wisdom in helping draft sustainable, long-term employment contracts this past year to best ensure the stability of the district while bolstering our future academic product.

Further aiding the positive strength of our district’s finances is the ever-growing partnership between the Au Gres-Sims School District and the Saginaw Indian Chippewa Tribe. Since 2008, our generous tribal partners have granted Au Gres- Sims $483,663.87 in received monetary grants! These specialized grants have been intangible difference-makers in allowing the district to focus on creating sustainable investments into unique and specialized instructional programs which continue to demonstrate educational effectiveness in the classroom and continue to set us apart as a true “Destination District.”

Lastly, the district also just passed a Bond Refunding Authorization Resolution which allows the school district to refinance the existing debt retirement obligation at a lower interest rate. This proactive measure by the district will save taxpayers an additional $147,000!

Throughout this holiday season of thanksgiving, let us all be mindful of the incredibly powerful collaborative initiatives taking place throughout our community’s educational school system and be blessed and mindful for our glad tidings.

September 26, 2014

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

This summer, the Au Gres-Sims School District was an awarded winner of a $10,000 competitive grant from the Monsanto America’s Farmers Grow Rural Fund. The award comes with special recognition and prestige because Au Gres-Sims was one of only six school districts in the entire State of Michigan to win this 2014 grant.

Our department teams have strategic designs to use this generous funding to increase our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives across all curriculums by purposefully expanding and infusing our pre-existing Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) program into the middle school and high school curriculums. As a current regional academic leader, this large-scale expansion into our unique ROV programming will truly designate Au Gres-Sims as the premier “Destination District” for math and science hands-on, project-based instruction!

I wish to extend special gratitude to the three local farming families who nominated our school district for this wonderful Monsanto grant opportunity; Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Selle, Mr. and Mrs. William Huber, and Mrs. Diane Lynch. Further, I wish to express humble appreciation for the instructional leadership initiatives exhibited throughout this rewarding process to Principal Zeien, the instructional department chairs, the school improvement leadership team, our school board, and of course, the entire Monsanto Grow Rural Fund personnel.

This grant resource, and the resulting ROV and STEM extensions, provides even more possibilities for our students to receive pioneering, state-of-the art instruction in pursuit of career and college readiness skill sets. For students seeking to be cutting-edge leaders in math and science, Au Gres-Sims clearly remains the district of choice.

August 18, 2014

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

The institution of public education in Michigan has experienced a state of flux and transition for the past ten years. Many educators and pundits continually reference “fiscal cliffs” while easily citing numerous examples of districts throughout the state facing shrinking budgets, declining enrollments, large-scale staffing cuts, concessionary contracts, and facility disrepair.

Yet, Au Gres-Sims continues to shift paradigms. In fact, I have never been more excited or filled with positive anticipation for a school year starting than I am for this coming 2014-15 academic year! Au Gres-Sims School District has not only met the educational winds of change head on, but has turned perceived organizational threats into realized opportunities for our students and community. The culture on campus exudes a sense of positivity and collaborative teamwork that I have never before experienced throughout my career.

Led by incredible professional and support staffs, our educational product is superb and consistently receives state recognition, accolades, and awards for academic excellence. Further, Au Gres-Sims sets the pace as the most technologically advanced school district in the region as we appropriately prepare our learners for the Career and College markets of tomorrow.

Extraordinarily so, we are the “Destination District” for student learners who seek to become leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and we have been progressive in seeking programming and innovative funding sources to provide unique curriculum possibilities not found anywhere else in our region.

Au Gres-Sims continues to maintain its gorgeous, safe, and friendly campus with fiscal mindfulness and continued reinvestment into timely and practical facility upgrades while maintaining a healthy financial status. Therefore, it is with pride and responsible leadership that as Wolverines, we continue to model the maroon and “GOLD” standard for other districts.

January 31, 2014

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

It is a great pleasure to share that our Au Gres-Sims School District has once again been recognized by Bridge Magazine and the Lansing based research firm of Public Sector Consultants as one of the best districts in the entire State of Michigan. Out of 540 total school districts (public and charter) throughout the state, we ranked #66 - up three spots from last year's outstanding #69 ranking. This places us in the top 12% of all districts state-wide for the second straight year as the regional academic leader. We narrowly missed being recognized as an Academic All-State honoree which is designated for the top 10%, or first 54 spots.

Bridge Magazine examines data from the previous academic year and uses a value-added ranking system to measure a district's test scores adjusted for student family income levels. This value added ranking system measures the true effectiveness of schools, and therefore is not a ranking of achievement, but overachievement!

This recognition affirms our work and conviction toward doing what is best for students. Further, our consistent annual ranking speaks to the exceptional focus on instructional quality, curriculum reform, and attention to guided school improvement initiatives cultivated within a professional learning community culture. Everyone plays a vital role as a team member in our accomplishments, and I encourage you to take a moment to reflect not only upon the great recognition of our efforts as a whole community, but on the reality of the sustainable, positive impact we provide for our student-learners as a Destination District. I am so proud of our Au Gres-Sims educational community and the diligent work ethic of our students, staff, administrators, school board, and engaged stakeholders. The sky is our limit as we continue the collaborative style of data-based and research-sound work we do here as a collective. Congratulations Au Gres-Sims!

Please feel free to read and share with friends the entire story at Bridgemi.com, or at the following web address: http://bridgemi.com/tag/series-2013-academic-state-champs/

October 23, 2013

Dear Greater Au Gres-Sims Community,

The University of Gonzaga is a small Jesuit college located in Spokane, Washington. The ‘Zags have become famous for their ability to recruit major basketball talent from across the country and make impressive NCAA men’s tournament runs toward national titles for the past ten years, despite their relatively small undergraduate enrollment in comparison to other major universities. The Gonzaga men’s basketball teams have not always been nationally recognized, however. Prior to their recent successes within their conference championships and March Madness tournaments, they were relatively unknown outside of the Northwest, and their teams were referred to as “Cinderella stories,” “flash in the pans,” and “one-hit wonders,” based on what analysts argued were special collections of “once in a program’s history” caliber of team talent. Yet, regardless of their critics, Gonzaga has been able to continue their brilliance and capitalize upon their successes throughout the past decade, even earning the #1 national ranking in the Associated Press Poll at one point in last year’s season. Now, not only is Gonzaga recognized as a powerhouse program – no longer Cinderellas – but they also receive critical acclaim and national prestige while consistently establishing measures of excellence on the basketball court.

I reference Gonzaga’s success as an analogy because Au Gres-Sims has rocked our regional constituency these past two years and we are now preparing to again set the standard for academic achievement with another great “run” this year. As the awards and accolades continue to arrive, along with the expressed communication and appropriate marketing and broadcasting of our accomplishments, we now find ourselves on a unique organizational precipice. Outside pundits suppose that our recent achievements indicate singular spikes in proficiency scores and that we cannot possibly sustain our current levels of excellence. I contend that our critics grotesquely underestimate our culture, professionalism, collaboration, abilities, work ethic, determination, resources, student opportunities, focus on student achievement, and blossoming potential.

Au Gres-Sims, like Gonzaga, is no longer a hidden gem. Our burgeoning student enrollment numbers (a realized 14% total student population increase by the 2013 fall count day), representing family choice, are indicators of greatness, as well as the amazing amount of instructional talent we are amassing who seek to join our team. These realities are direct by-products of the incredibly powerful work we continue to do here as a collective, coupled with our progressive vision which continues to assert our academic leadership throughout the region. We are experiencing peak moments and realizing the benefits of persistent focus on doing what is best for students.

But, the question from our reserved, “let’s wait and see” community members begs “What will Au Gres-Sims do now?” As an organization, we are at a critical juncture. Will we solidly benchmark ourselves as the resonating educational force in our area, or was our recent success and perceived hard work a mere anomaly? The reality is that the pressure to continue to be the best choice for students is much higher and stressful than simply working toward earning a seat at the table and being included in marginal discussions. It was easier to fly under the radar because social expectations had not yet been heightened, and we had not necessarily taken the organizational steps to comfortably begin to self-actualize the special things that were happening on our campus. Presently, we find ourselves out in front and setting the academic pace for our neighbors. Nevertheless, this understanding also comes with a set of entirely new change challenges for our school district that we will work to identify through our school improvement initiatives, joint communication opportunities, and professional learning communities moving forward. For some of us, these changes will not be easy and deep introspection of past practices will be necessary to shift us through to the understanding that “what got us here, may not get us there.” Although I assume that the sense of accomplishment toward working to optimize our potential as a student service institution is worth the sweat equity, we must brace and prepare ourselves for the even harder work necessitated to advance forward and developmentally progress.

Together, we have already identified areas of improvement that we must take into account, address, and appropriately solve. We must continue to adapt to the needs of our students while growing ever more savvy, comfortable, and capable with applied data usage and interpretation to improve instructional strategies. We need to vigilantly remain reflective of our own crafts and instructional artistry, and work together toward alleviating areas of deficiencies, while simultaneously reviewing processes and addressing areas in which we can become more efficient and productive. I contend that we owe it to our students to be the best, that we owe it to our community to ensure that we remain the academic regional leader, and that we owe it to ourselves to celebrate the culminating successes of our hard work. We must resolve to be steadfast in our support of each other as a unified team proceeding forward to shape a common vision to be the absolute Destination District for our student learners by involving stakeholders at every community level. We know that every student will succeed here, no matter what it takes!

Au Gres-Sims is poised and ready to launch into a realm of success and notoriety that we may not have envisioned for our district in what seems to be a short amount of time. Still, our resolute and deliberate actions henceforth will cement the fate we ultimately choose; establish ourselves as the continued and preeminent academic regional leader, or prove our detractors correct by failing to move from good to great. I propose we continue to challenge the fabric of our organization by setting even loftier goals, aiming for new summits, achieving new benchmarks, and vigorously celebrating our inevitable achievements, while firmly establishing ourselves as the gold standard by which other institutions react and compare themselves. Together, let us realize our potential as we make the Au Gres-Sims School District exceptional!

Yours in Education,

Jeffrey Collier

Superintendent of Schools

September 3, 2013

Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,

As summer draws to a close, the excitement starts to build here at school. Staff begin filtering back to campus making preparations for the return of students, parents are enrolling their children and making arrangements for the school year ahead, maintenance staff work to finish summer projects throughout the buildings and grounds, and this place literally begins to hum!

But during the “quiet” months of summer, it has not been so quiet around here. The administrative staff has been very busy preparing as well. We are constantly looking ahead and exploring additional programs and initiatives that will expand opportunities for our students to be educationally successful. We are extremely excited about all of the new things happening in our schools, and the opportunities that are opening up for our learners like never before!

I encourage parents and community members to visit our schools and become actively engaged partners with us in your student’s lives. These are exciting times for our children, and to truly excel, our students need the support and encouragement of involved family participants who are knowledgeable of the curriculum, programs, activities and issues they participate in every day.

There is no mistaking the positive energy and exciting vibe around campus! So, let’s get ready everyone, because school is starting and together, we are about to embark upon a dynamic and skyrocketing academic ride!